The presidential elections held in Chile on 19 December were a popular victory. These elections ratify the decision to continue towards a definitive end to the legacy of the dictatorship, and they demonstrate that the process that began in October 2019 remains open and that the country we want for the future is still in dispute. The vote was resoundingly in favor of Gabriel Boric Font, a member of Convergencia Social (Social Convergence), which along with the Comunes (Commons) and Revolución Democrática (Democratic Revolution) parties is part of the Frente Amplio (Broad Front). The Frente Amplio is part of Apruebo Dignidad (Approve Dignity), the broader electoral alliance with the Communist Party of Chile which obtained 55.90% of the vote, over 4.6 million votes. José Antonio Kast, the far-right candidate from the Republican Party, which is part of the “Christian Social Front” electoral alliance, obtained 45% of the vote and suffered a harsh defeat. It is important to note that, while defeated, the far-right is still very much alive in the National Congress.
Leia em português: Vitória popular: Boric presidente do Chile
Lea en español: Victoria popular: Boric presidente de Chile
Special mention must be made of some historic facts: the participation rate of around 55% of the electoral register, that is, over 8 million people; that Boric is the youngest Chilean president in history; that he was elected despite coming second in the first round; and that he is the first president to come from Magallanes, the southernmost region of Chile and the planet. All this is worth highlighting, along with the fact that those who went to the polls en masse and repeated the path taken by the plebiscite and the Constituent Convention elections, were women and young people. These sectors, with a support rate of 70%, overwhelmingly swung behind Boric. He won in all age groups of men and women up to 70 years old – those in this age group voted overwhelmingly for Kast.
Also worthy of note is the retaking of the country’s northern regions, something in which Dr. Izkia Siches Pastén was instrumental. Dr. Siches emerged from the student movement and resigned as president of the Chilean Medical College to become Boric’s campaign coordinator for the second round. She has also recently become a mother. With her 7-month-old daughter, she traveled thousands of kilometers from Arica, Chile’s northernmost city where she was born, to the country’s south. Dr. Siches has undoubtedly become one of the political figures with the greatest profile and prospects for the future, and she will be part of President Boric’s cabinet. Her joining of the campaign was decisive in regaining votes and regions for the Apruebo Dignidad coalition, and the future of Chile.
Analyzing the electoral situation leads us to look at the voting in the 1988 plebiscite to reclaim democracy. Coincidentally, in that year the percentages between one side and the other, between the past and the future, were the same as today, 55% to 45%. In other words, when political forces come together for greater goals, the popular vote in Chile tends to favor the left.
In this historic moment, it should be noted that the political forces that arose after the dictatorship, governed Chile for 30 years, and in the last four terms alternated between one another, Michele Bachelet’s Concertación and Sebastián Piñera, were the main losers in the presidential elections. This is not the case with the votes for senators and deputies in which the past and the legacy of the ‘Pinochetista’ Constitution can still be seen. Here we have an insurmountable obstacle to deep transformation, because seats are divided in half for each political block, which makes it difficult to vote for constitutional reform laws that require the famous two-thirds quorum, a chain from the dictatorship that still binds the Congress.
These elections are without question a popular expression of the choice to follow the course opened in October 2019, which sought the best of the Penguin Revolution of 2006, the student movement of 2011, and the successive demonstrations for health, education, retirement benefits, an end to the private pension fund system (AFPs), and the feminist and environmental struggles. There is no doubt that a president who comes from those struggles has been elected, but he has not arrived alone, as he is accompanied by the whole generation that emerged in the heat of these struggles and mobilizations, who are the ones who are going to pursue the dreams forged in this long transition, and who, thanks to popular mobilization, are forging a new Constitution through the Constituent Convention, and have welcomed president-elect Gabriel Boric. It was moving to see Constituent Convention president and historic leader of the indigenous Mapuche people Elisa Loncon share an embrace with the president-elect from Magallanes in the country’s extreme south.
Given the joy for the triumph achieved by popular mobilization and won against all the odds (such as lack of buses on the streets), it is clear that the people of Chile have decided to continue moving towards the profound transformations needed to live with dignity and justice. There is no question that in the hands of the Apruebo Dignidad coalition, the government, working in harmony with the Constituent Convention, will need to rely on mobilization to defeat the right-wing now entrenched in Congress through its senators and deputies, and in the Convention with its 20% of elected representatives. This task is fundamental to moving forward, continuing to build the popular movement, taking advantage of the victorious electoral day, uniting and fighting, and truly putting an end to the constitution and political legacy of Pinochet which is still present today.
Translation: Bobby Sparks